As you may have noticed, I haven’t had a byline here within the TSS universe in about three weeks. Time to come clean: I did 21 days in county for beating up one of Floyd Mayweather’s ex-girlfriends. For what it’s worth, she had her hands up and wasn’t looking at Joe Cortez at the time. I feel good about that part, at least.
Anyway, I’m back now, finding time for a final “Rants” column of 2011, except it doesn’t feature the usual bullet-pointed random Rants. Instead, I’ll do a one-email mailbag and then bust out a few year-end awards, since that’s what us boxing writers do in late-December. (And since Editor Mike specifically asked all of his contributors to do something awardsy.)
But first, the mini-mailbag, which in this case functions as an excuse for me to comment on the Andre Ward-Carl Froch fight that I haven’t yet written about:
What did you think of the Ward-Froch fight? I ask, because I have a theory regarding the scoring:
1. First, I did think the fight was a little closer than what the broadcasters were telling me. 8-4 really seemed right to me. I thought Froch did win the first round, and, if that fight was in England, he would have. So when I heard 115-113, which I agree seems closer than reality, I wasn’t that put off by it, because I just didn’t see what Gus Johnson was screaming about most of the time. I mean, Froch has a world class chin, so that was going to keep him upright all night, but didn’t Ward look tired down the stretch? He even got his mouthpiece knocked out, which may indicate it was a little harder in there than the Showtime guys were telling me it was. The 10-point system is incredibly flawed; either a close round or a dominant round minus a knockdown are still 10-9, so until that changes, we could have seen a very clear, “close” win for Ward, even if Andre Ward’s rounds were much more dominant and clear.
2. Just saw that it was the English judge who had Ward up the most, 118-110, while the American actually had it 115-113 for Ward (along with the Canadian’s card). I think we saw this because of what have been perceived as “hometown” decisions recently, particularly with such an international focus on this fight (I’m using international loosely, just referencing the Europeans in this tournament, not that the world was watching, lol). Favoritism in this tournament would wreck any chance at doing another one of these types of tournaments again, and I think the American judge gave Froch every possible close call, while the Englishman went the other direction, whereas of course it’s usually the other way around. Not that we should expect another one of these tournaments in the future. It’s a little too drawn out, and let’s face it, why would these Euros come over to fight in front of empty arenas where they lose their hometown advantage, especially after seeing the tournament winner, Ward, get unbelievable preferential treatment? (It’s okay, he was probably going to win this thing if it was on the moon.)
Anyway, now we can all turn our attention to not seeing Pac-May later next year.
First off, thank you for writing half my column for me.
I didn’t see as close a fight as you did. I gave the first round to Ward—and didn’t hesitate at all on the scoring of that one—and ended up with a score of 118-110, though I could easily see 117-111. At 116-112, I think you were stretching a bit, but not beyond the bounds of reason. 115-113, however, was not an acceptable scorecard to me. And the interesting thing to note here is that not all 115-113 cards are created equal. Canadian judge Craig Metcalfe got there by having Froch rally to win three of the last five rounds and make it close—an only slightly ridiculous premise. American judge John Stewart apparently removed the “h” from his first name and thought he was working for Comedy Central, as he scored FOUR OF THE FIRST FIVE ROUNDS FOR FROCH. Then he had Ward dominating the rest of the way, winning six of the last seven to eke out the decision with an inspired rally. That is, simply put, as bad a scorecard as you will ever see, even if it ultimately tabbed the correct winner.
Your theory about judges bending over backward not to hand in regionally biased scorecards is a theory I’ve tossed out there from time to time myself, and there might be some truth to it. I remember thinking before the Lennox Lewis-Evander Holyfield rematch that, with the way the Madison Square Garden judges screwed Lewis the first time and created a full-on taxpayer-dollar-wasting “investigation,” the judges for the second fight could be expected to give anything close to Lennox just in case. Sure enough, in a fight I scored 114-114 from ringside at the Thomas & Mack Center, all three judges had Lewis winning. I don’t mean to imply any of them did a bad job scoring the fight; their tallies of 117-111, 116-112, and 115-113 were all reasonable reflections of reality. But the truth is that boxing judges, like anyone else, can either consciously or subconsciously try not to look biased and thereby end up presenting a reverse-bias. It’s possible that happened with the two judges who gave Froch five rounds.
In any case, I’m glad you pointed out that Ward would have won the Super Six on any continent or any sphere within our solar system. Sure, he got to fight exclusively in the U.S. and primarily in Oakland. But that didn’t make a damned bit of difference in the outcome, except to prevent him from being robbed in the other guy’s hometown.
As for Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, I actually wrote a small blurb for Grantland.com that was supposed to run this week, predicting that the superfight was going to happen in 2012. I really felt the stars were beginning to align, that Mayweather now had the 99 percent confidence in winning required to make him sign any contract, and that Bob Arum might see Pacquiao’s career winding down and be willing to gamble (while banking countless millions for his company and his family). Then Floyd got 90 days in the slammer. My prediction blurb had to be yanked, and I honestly have no idea whether Pacquiao-Mayweather is a possibility for the fall of 2012. And frankly, I can think of few things I want to do less right now than speculate about that subject.
Now, let’s move along to my 2011 year-end awards picks. Some of these were discussed on last weekend’s season finale episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com), but I’m beefing it up with a few extra awards. For the last dozen years or so, I always compiled the “Unofficial Official” awards for a certain magazine that is now dead to me, so I’ll borrow a handful of categories that I used to acknowledge on that two-page spread and note them here:
Fighter Of The Year: Andre Ward. There were no spectacular candidates this year. The 2007 runner-up campaign from Kelly Pavlik would have gotten him named Fighter of the Year for 2011 in a landslide. Giving the award to Ward is a little bit of a by-default judgment, and also an acknowledgement of his body of work required since 2009 to win the Super Six. Even on their own, his wins over Arthur Abraham and Froch are enough to edge out my runner up Brandon Rios, who hurt his case by failing to make weight for this third and final fight of the year.
Fight Of The Year: Akira Yaegashi KO 10 Pornsawan Porpramook. I’ve already written about this YouTube gem plenty. If you haven’t watched it, then you have no right to vote on the Fight of the Year.
Round Of The Year: James Kirkland vs. Alfredo Angulo, Round One. You can find a lot of rounds from 2011 that featured thrilling two-way action. You can even find a few other rounds this year that featured both guys hitting the canvas. But there was no round this year as staggeringly unpredictable—while offering bone-crunching action and multiple knockdowns—as these three minutes in Cancun.
Knockout Of The Year: Nonito Donaire KO 2 Fernando Montiel. Left hook. Dented head. End of discussion. Sure, ref Russell Mora failing to stop the fight scuffed up the aesthetics, but balancing that out is the fact that Montiel was an elite fighter coming in and he got absolutely wrecked. No other fighter anywhere near Montiel’s quality got obliterated half as violently in 2011.
Upset Of The Year: Orlando Salido KO 8 Juan Manuel Lopez. Talk about a loaded category: Nobuhiro Ishida KO 1 James Kirkland, Lamont Peterson W 12 Amir Khan, Marco Antonio Rubio KO 7 David Lemieux, Jorge Arce KO 12 Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., Antonio DeMarco KO 11 Jorge Linares, and Kirkland KO 6 Angulo all could have won this category in past years. But Salido outslugging Lopez in a thriller that saw the guy with 11 losses defeat the guy with zero losses stands above the rest.
Trainer Of The Year: Robert Garcia. Tragically, after the way Khan and Pacquiao finished their years, we are forced to deprive Freddie Roach of his 24th consecutive Trainer of the Year award. Garcia loses points for his work with the heinous Antonio Margarito, but no other cornerman comes close to what “Grandpa” did with Rios, Donaire, and Mikey Garcia this year.
Female Fighter Of The Year: Anne Sophie Mathis. Holly Holm is the Freddie Roach of this award from the “Unofficial Official Awards” pages, and Mathis went 5-0 this year including a knockout of Holm. Easy enough.
Robbery Of The Year: Paul Williams W 12 Erislandy Lara. It takes a lot to get punished as a boxing judge. All three of the judges for this fight got suspended for the scorecards they handed in. Hirings and firings at a certain boxing magazine aside, Williams over Lara was the most horrendous decision of the year in boxing.
Most Improved Fighter Of The Year: Carlos Molina. This is a tricky one, in that I don’t know if the Chicago-based junior middleweight has technically improved as a fighter—he was pretty good to begin with and had won nine straight coming into 2011. But in terms of recognition and opposition, Molina made the leap. He fought to an impressive draw against Lara, knocked out Allen Conyers, and then upset Kermit Cintron on Showtime. Next up is James Kirkland, which means Molina had better keep improving if he wants this winning streak to continue in 2012.
Facial Monstrosity Of The Year: Pawel Wolak. Since I’m the one who invented this “Unofficial Official” award, I’m going to keep handing it out. And as long as I’m handing it out, how do I not give it to the guy who inspired the Joe Tessitore call, “a left hook to the hematoma”? We didn’t get everything we wanted out of boxing in 2011. But you can’t deny that Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez did their part to make the year as swell as possible.